Finding Pathways to Professionalism - Practice, Process and Random Walks

I will discuss the anomalous situation in Australia for people seeking to become professional translators that has resulted from the different paths taken here to develop vocational qualifications and certification testing.

National qualifications were an industry initiative that was widely informed by the real world work of practitioners. It was founded in a behaviourist approach to competency standards that describe what translators and interpreters do, with the goal of workforce skilling.

Certification was an initiative of Australia's National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters, Ltd (NAATI) that was informed by academic literature and the work done by the American Translators Association. It was founded in a generic, or attributes approach to competency standards that describe what abilities translators and interpreters have, with the goal of certification testing.

The respective results are two vocational education and training (VET) qualifications each for translators and interpreters and five NAATI credentials in interpreting, but only three in translating. For Advanced Diploma graduates there is certification for both occupations. For languages that NAATI cannot test, there is also a credential for both 'look-alike' activities. However, while Diploma graduates may access provisional interpreter certification, there is no such in translating.

The architects of certification adopted the trappings of industry's work. Consideration of their decision not to provide a pathway from translation beginner to professional provides fruitful ground for exploring the difference between translation as professional practice and process approaches to quality control and training, and academic approaches to translator education and certification testing.